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Doctor Curmudgeon® A Visit From Grandma

By Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D. FAAP Doctor Eisman is in Family Practice in Aventura, Florida with her partner, Dr. Eugene Eisman, an internist/cardiologist

I was sitting quite calmly in my tiny office, which I often refer to as “the cave.”

My scheduled patient had cancelled. I was about to tackle an unwelcome pile of paperwork unrelated to my patients’ well-being, when I sniffed that familiar and wonderful aroma of lavender and vanilla as I heard the rustle of skirts.

It meant that my beloved Great-Great-Great grandmother, Dr. Cranky Wangshaw-Vesalius-Steinberger was arriving. She was an eminent Victorian physician who occasionally covered for another prominent colleague; Dr. John Watson well known as the personal physician for Sherlock Holmes.

It was not usual for Grandma to visit during the working day. More frequently, she arrived in the evening; especially if I had a little difficulty falling asleep. We always enjoyed our chats together.

Pulling up a chair and settling her skirts, she kissed my cheek. “I thought I’d call on you as neither one of us is unduly busy at this moment.”

“Grandmother; what a delight to visit with you! I was just staring at a pile of junk.”

“I, too, have a quiet day, my child. I am eagerly awaiting the return of your grandfather from Vienna” (My grandfather is Dr. Yevgeny Vesalius-Steinberger, also a physician).”

My eyebrows rose quizzically as I waited for her to continue.

“Your grandfather is in Vienna, attending to lectures by Dr. Freud, whom so many of my compatriots refer to as a ‘young whipper-snapper, upstart. ‘And that is among the nicest epithets that I have heard.

“I know you are aware of him and I do know that you have read his writing.”

I actually put my feet up on my old desk as I listened. Sigmund Freud! Wow! My grandfather had actually met him! Another wow!

Grandmother continued, “I believe you do know that Freud was a well-educated neurologist who studied medicine at the University of Vienna. He was even selected to be a student of Dr. Jean Charcot, a neurologist, who is considered to be the Father of Neurology.

“Freud was the first to theorize about the unconscious: where all kinds of sexual impulses, thoughts, feelings and ideas live outside of our own actual awareness.

“In my time, this was rejected by many. The thought that there was some unconscious part of the mind that was at war, so to speak, with the conscious, was considered rather bizarre.”

Nodding my head, I said, “Well, I don’t have to tell you that he is still famous. And he also wrote about dreams being important to help unlock our unconscious.”

With a faraway look in her eyes, Grandma continued, “True, his book was called, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ He even did an analysis on himself.

“He was an intriguing man and had been at our home for several dinners. He said that he began studying law at the University of Vienna. He was such a heavy smoker and he believed that it helped him to be focused. In actuality, he helped him to die of cancer.

“Of course, when in our home, we did not allow him to smoke.”

I was impressed. “There’s a lot I didn’t know about him, Grandma.”

“Oh, and he was quite a Shakespeare scholar. We had some marvelous dinner table discussions.

“There are many of his case histories and psychoanalytic treatments, available but he was a fascinating individual. And quite brave, to expound these new clinical methods and theories.”

“Oh, indeed! I want to hear more about him personally, since you actually met him.”

Grandma leaned back in her chair as she continued. “Well, he was an atheist and wanted to marry a woman who happened to be the granddaughter of a chief rabbi from Hamburg. So they had a civil ceremony. But in Austria he was required to have a Jewish religious ceremony so he seriously thought about joining the Protestant church. But finally, he learned a few words of Hebrew and had the religious ceremony, of which he was unhappy.

“I have to get back to my own office, now. But it does please me to leave you with a parting bit of gossip or knowledge: Freud was born with the name Schlomo Sigismund Freud. Sigmund was the abbreviated form of his middle name and he used that as his first name. I am sure he felt that Schlomo was simply too Jewish for him.”

I smiled as Grandmother, Dr. Cranky whooshed back to her own office. But the delightful scents of lavender and vanilla remained.

Dr. Curmudgeon suggests “Bitter Medicine”, Dr. Eugene Eisman’s story of his experiences–from the humorous to the intense—as a young army doctor serving in the Vietnam War.
Bitter Medicine by Eugene H. Eisman, M.D. –on Amazon

Doctor Curmudgeon® is Diane Batshaw Eisman, M.D., a physician-satirist. This column originally appeared on SERMO, the leading global social network for doctors.
SERMO www.sermo.com “talk real world medicine”

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